The History of Universalism (Part Two)

Continued from The History of Universalism: Apostolic Era through the Middle Ages.

The Reformation

Beginning in the 15th century in central Europe, various movements to reform Christianity arose over the next few hundred years, spreading to northern and western parts of Europe, Great Britain, and eventually America. The beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church — and its claim to a monopoly of authority over people’s souls — were challenged by increasing numbers of bold religious reformers who started their own Christian sects, giving rise to an era of religious change, conflict, and diversification which has come to be known collectively as the Reformation. Churches that trace their descent to the reformers of this period are generally known as Protestant, because their founders protested against and broke away from the Catholic Church.

Many people think of the Reformation as being primarily about Martin Luther and John Calvin, its two most recognizable figures. However, there were a number of other important ministers who developed their own competing expressions of Protestant Christianity and formed churches and denominations that did not come under the umbrella of either Lutheranism or Calvinism. Some of them were Universalists. In fact, there were several major Reformation movements and communities of faith that rejected the doctrine of eternal hell and embraced a more progressive view of God’s plan for human beings.

The Anabaptists were a large and varied group of Christians that arose in Switzerland and Germany in the 16th century. They were among the most radical of the Reformation. They rejected the Catholic practice of infant baptism and believed that each individual must make a choice to follow Christ and become baptized when they are old enough to understand the faith. They also tended to oppose ecclesiastical hierarchy. Many of the Anabaptists were Universalists. One way we know this is because Article XVII of the Lutheran Augsburg Confession of faith (1530) says that “They condemn the Anabaptists, who think that there will be an end to the punishments of condemned men and devils.

Hans Denck
Hans Denck

Hans Denck (1495-1527) was a German theologian and Anabaptist leader. He received a classical education and was fluent in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. He was always far ahead of his years intellectually, and at a very young age he became the headmaster of St. Sebaldus school in Nuremberg. Later he was labeled “the Anabaptist pope,” expelled for his beliefs, and forced to live a wandering life of exile. Before dying young of bubonic plague, he translated parts of the Bible into German and wrote two books. During his short life he made significant contributions to Christian thought that were centuries ahead of his time. For example, he developed a view of the Bible that took into consideration the individual human authors who wrote its component texts; regarded church sacraments as largely symbolic rather than literal; viewed the cross of Christ not as a legalistic function, but as an expression of God’s love and a model of perfect sacrifice for people to follow; and emphasized the Holy Spirit within us all, that enables us to seek and find truth according to conscience.

Denck’s radical theology of God in all things was a forerunner of later mystical and progressive movements such as Quakerism. He wrote that the Inner Light “speaks clearly in everyone, in the deaf, dumb, and blind, even in unreasoning beasts, even in leaves and grass, stone and wood, heaven and earth, and all that is in them, that they may hear and do His will.” On the divine plan for human beings, he wrote that “It is not enough for God to be in you; you must also be in God.” His motto was: “No one truly knows Christ unless he follows him daily in life.” On the final end of sin, he wrote, “For sin is over against God to be reckoned as nothing; and however great it might be, God can, will, and indeed already has, overcome it for Himself to His own eternal praise without harm for any creatures.” In a wistful poem, Denck expressed a yearning to share the Good News of the ultimate reconciliation of all things with an unknowing, unhearing world:

Oh, who will give me a voice that I may cry aloud to the whole world
that God, the All Highest,
is in the deepest abyss within us
and is waiting for us to return to Him.

Oh, my God, how does it happen in this poor old world,
that You are so great and yet nobody finds You,
that You call so loudly and nobody hears You,
that You are so near and nobody feels You,
that You give Yourself to everybody and nobody knows Your name!

The Moravians were another major type of Reformation-era Christians, originating in what is now the Czech Republic. Jan Hus, a Czech reformer who was burned at the stake in 1415 for challenging the authority of the Roman Church, was the founder of this sect. Some of the more radical Moravians were Universalists. Included in the “Sixteen Discourses” of Moravian literature is the statement, “By His (Christ’s) Name, all can and shall obtain life and salvation.

Bishop Peter Boehler
Bishop Peter Boehler

A few hundred years later, Peter Boehler (1712-1775) spread the Moravian faith to England and the American colonies, and included in his message was the teaching of Universalism. He wrote that “all the damned souls shall yet be brought out of hell.” Boehler was a German-born missionary who became a bishop in the Moravian Church. He was influenced by the Pietist movement and was a longtime friend of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. There are some indications that Wesley — perhaps because of Boehler’s influence — gravitated toward universalist ideas near the end of his life.

The Anabaptists and the Moravians gave rise to several different communities of faith that still exist today. Among them are the Brethren, Bruderhof, Mennonites, Hutterites, Amish, and the Moravian Church of America. Unfortunately, most of the Universalist beliefs have disappeared from these churches over time. The Quakers were also connected in some ways to the Anabaptist and Moravian heritage. In many Quaker churches, Universalism has remained a significant stream of thought.

The Quakers (Society of Friends) began in England in the 17th century. George Fox is generally considered to be the founder of this religious group. Quakerism emphasizes direct religious experience rather than sacraments or scriptural dogmatism, and teaches that the “Inner Light,” the Spirit of God, is within every person and accessible through quiet prayer and meditation. The state of Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn (1644-1718) as a safe haven for Quaker immigrants, who left England due to persecution for their radical beliefs. Penn was inclined toward Universalism. The Quaker community eventually divided over issues of universalist versus fundamentalist interpretations of the Gospel. One of the leaders of the universalist-leaning faction of Quakers was Elias Hicks (1748-1830), an itinerant preacher from New York who taught a spiritualized view of heaven and hell and rejected conservative views of the Bible. Today, a significant number of Quakers hold to the salvation of all and consider themselves Universalists.

There are a few other significant Universalist figures that should be mentioned in the context of discussing the Protestant Reformation. One of them is Jacob Boehme (1575-1624), a German mystic and writer. Another is William Law (1686-1761), an Anglican who was influenced by Boehme and who in turn influenced John Wesley and others active in the evangelical revival in 18th century England. Law was a convinced Universalist, writing that “The love that brought forth the existence of all things, changes not through the fall of its creatures, but is continually at work, to bring back all fallen nature and creature to their first state of goodness. … God’s providence, from the fall to the restitution of all things, is doing the same thing, as when He said to the dark chaos of fallen nature, ‘Let there be light’; He still says, and will continue saying the same thing, till there is no evil of darkness left in all that is nature and creature. God creating, God illuminating, God sanctifying, God threatening and punishing, God forgiving and redeeming, is but one and the same essential, immutable, never ceasing working of the divine nature.

Rev. James Relly
Rev. James Relly

Yet another Universalist, one who could be said to stand at the transition between the Reformation Era and the Modern Era, is James Relly (1722-1778). Relly was a Methodist minister from Wales who embraced the teaching of universal salvation during a time of great religious ferment. When he began promoting this belief openly, it caused controversy in the Methodist movement. Perhaps for this reason, Relly preferred not to call himself a “Universalist.” But his beliefs were definitely Universalist, and he became a mentor to John Murray, the father of the Universalist Church of America.

The Early Modern Era

It is difficult to precisely mark the end of the Reformation and the beginning of “modern” Christianity. But perhaps a good place to draw the line would be the settling of the American colonies by British, German, and other European immigrants, who brought with them a wide variety of religious denominations — many of which were alternative, radical, and persecuted back home in Europe. This great diversity of religion in America led to the rise of religious tolerance as a virtue, which was enshrined in the Bill of Rights as the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of religious belief and practice. This diversity and newfound freedom also enabled ministers with controversial ideas to promote their beliefs more openly and passionately, seeking converts and starting new churches among the relatively freethinkng American population.

It was in this climate of openness, experimentation, and competition for souls that the Universalist Church of America was born. Originally called the Universalist General Convention, it emerged as a melange of German Anabaptists, Moravians, liberal Quakers, and people influenced by Pietist movements such as Methodism. During the 1700’s and 1800’s, Universalism gradually became a church of its own, drawing inspiration from a number of traditions that went before it, as well as the preaching, writing, and evangelism of numerous ministers and theologians who arose to expound and spread the new movement.

There were too many significant figures in the 18th and 19th century American Universalist movement to discuss them all in this article. Some of the most influential or notable people include George de Benneville, Elhanan Winchester, Benjamin Rush, Thomas Potter, John Murray, Hosea Ballou, John Wesley Hanson, Hannah Whitall Smith, and Olympia Brown. Many famous Americans of this era believed in Universalism, including such household names as Abraham Lincoln, president of the United States; Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross; and Florence Nightingale, pioneer of modern nursing. The Universalist Church of America grew to be the ninth largest Christian denomination in the United States at its peak.

President Abraham Lincoln
President Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln served as U.S. president from 1861 to 1865, preserved the Union during the Civil War, and emancipated the slaves in the South. He was a deeply religious man and was one of the most famous people ever to have believed in Universalism — though most people do not know this about him. Lincoln wrote an essay in 1833 arguing for “predestinated universal salvation in criticism of the orthodox doctrine of endless punishment.” One of his associates, Isaac Cogdal, reported in a book about a religious discussion in Lincoln’s office in 1859: “Lincoln expressed himself in about these words: He did not nor could not believe in the endless punishment of any one of the human race. He understood punishment for sin to be a Bible doctrine; that the punishment was parental in its object, aim, and design, and intended for the good of the offender; hence it must cease when justice is satisfied. He added that all that was lost by the transgression of Adam was made good by the atonement: all that was lost by the fall was made good by the sacrifice.

The Universalist beliefs of President Lincoln and others of his time were made possible by great ministers and theologians who spread the Gospel of Universalism in early America, establishing it as one of the major types of Christianity in the young, forward-looking nation. One of the first of these Universalist leaders was George de Benneville (1703-1793), an immigrant who was born in London to French Huguenot parents. He questioned the religion of his aristocratic family and developed his own ideas, which included belief in universal salvation and the intrinsic holiness and divine worth of the human spirit. De Benneville became a preacher at a young age and quickly caused controversy because of his radical interpretations of the Gospel, which led to several death sentences being pronounced against him. He moved around among various European countries including France and Germany, where he studied medicine and became a physician.

While in Germany, de Benneville fell gravely ill and had a near-death experience in which his spirit left his body and he saw visions of heaven and hell. In hell, he felt such intense compassion that “I took it so to heart that I believed my happiness would be incomplete while one creature remained miserable.” In one of the visions, angelic beings “clothed in garments as white as snow” proclaimed to him the Good News of “the restoration of all the human species without exception.” De Benneville woke up in a coffin forty-two hours after he had been declared dead, and he returned to life with confirmation of his mission: to preach “the universal and everlasting gospel of boundless, universal love for the entire human race.” After this miracle of returning from the dead, his preaching drew increasingly large crowds and he was briefly imprisoned.

Seeking religious tolerance and freedom, de Benneville eventually immigrated to the American colonies and settled in Pennsylvania. He also assisted many persecuted German Protestants to join him in this new haven for religious freedom of conscience. In his new home in Pennsylvania, he worked as a physician and apothecary and continued his preaching of Universalism. De Benneville developed a positive relationship with Native American groups and shared fellowship and traded herbs with them. His teachings stressed the unconditional love of God for all people, regardless of race, gender, creed, or culture. One of his most significant accomplishments was helping to produce the Sauer Bible, the first German language Bible printed in America. In this Bible version, passages teaching universal restoration were marked in boldface.

Rev. Elhanan Winchester
Rev. Elhanan Winchester

Elhanan Winchester (1751-1797) was born in Massachusetts and was an intellectual prodigy in his youth. He became a Baptist preacher at the age of nineteen and attracted large crowds at revival meetings with his great memory for scripture and zealous oratorical style. He became a strict Calvinist in thelogy and preached in numerous churches and meeting houses throughout the colonies, but later in life he began investigating the teachings of Universalism, and eventually converted to this way of thinking. He faced opposition and explusion from his church, but continued his preaching career as a Universalist and founded the first Universalist church in Philadelphia, which he called “Universal Baptist.” Winchester wrote several books on the subject of Universalism, including the highly influential work Dialogues on the Universal Restoration, which he wrote while living for several years in England. A noteworthy and particularly commendable part of his life was his strong anti-slavery views and his founding of a church for black people in South Carolina. Prior to this, no local minister had ever taught the Gospel to slaves or allowed them to attend church.

Dr. Benjamin Rush
Dr. Benjamin Rush

Benjamin Rush (1745-1813) was a patriot of the American Revolution who signed the Declaration of Independence and was a close friend of both the second and third U.S. presidents, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. He was also a well-respected practicing physician, professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and the founder of Dickinson College. He was a pioneer in the study and treatment of mental illness, who insisted that the insane had a right to be treated humanely and with dignity. Rush is better known for being one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, but not as well known for his strong belief in Universalism, which he hoped would become the dominant religion in America. He attended Elhanan Winchester’s church and they became close friends, continuing to correspond after Winchester left Philadelphia. In one letter to Winchester, Rush wrote optimistically that “The Universal doctrine prevails more and more in our country, particularly among persons eminent for their piety, in whom it is not a mere speculation but a principle of action in the heart prompting to practical goodness.

Benjamin Rush said that Elhanan Winchester’s Universalist theology “embraced and reconciled my ancient calvinistical, and my newly adopted [Arminian] principles. From that time on I have never doubted upon the subject of the salvation of all men.” Rush was also a social reformer who was generations ahead of his time. Among the causes he championed were prison and judicial reform, abolition of slavery and the death penalty, education of women, conservation of natural resources, a healthy diet and abstinence from tobacco and alcohol, and avoidance of war unless absolutely necessary. His belief in the ultimate potential of all people to be educated, improved, and transformed was inspired in part by his Universalist religious beliefs. He wrote, “No particle of benevolence, no wish for the liberty of a slave or the reformation of a criminal will be lost, for they all flow from the Author of goodness, who implants no principles of action in man in vain.

Thomas Potter (date of birth and death unknown) was an illiterate farmer in New Jersey who started a house church, and in 1760, built a chapel on his land for itinerant preachers who taught radical new interpretations of the Gospel — especially Universalism. He was from a Quaker background, inclined to mysticism, and associated with a group called the Rogerines or “Quaker Baptists,” one of the early groups of American Christians who taught universal salvation.

Potter befriended the Universalist preacher John Murray in 1770, when the ship on which Murray was traveling from England to America struck a sandbar off the New Jersey coast and he was stranded near Potter’s home, where he arrived seeking provisions. Potter invited him in, saying, “I have longed to see you. I have been expecting you a long time!” Potter apparently had had a vision from God that a great minister would arrive at his home and preach the true Gospel in his chapel. John Murray initially protested and said that he was no longer a minister, because he had been expelled from the Methodist church in England, but Potter expressed his fervent belief that the ship had been grounded by an act of Divine Providence and would not be able to sail again until Murray agreed to preach. Murray wanted to sail for New York, but Potter prophesied: “The wind will never change, sir, until you have delivered to us, in that meeting-house, a message from God.” The prophecy proved true, for after waiting until the following Sunday for the wind to change, Murray finally agreed to preach a sermon about Universalism — and immediately after his sermon ended, a sailor ran up to him to inform him that the wind had suddenly changed and the ship could sail.

The story of Thomas Potter can be regarded as one of the divine confirmations of the truth of the Universalist Gospel and God’s will that it should spread. John Murray, the great Universalist preacher who became founder of the Universalist Church of America, said of Potter: “He had unbounded benevolence, was a friend to strangers, and a feeling, faithful man whose hospitable doors were open to everyone, and whose heart was devoted to God.” Had it not been for the miracle that took place on the Potter farm, Murray might never have decided to preach again.

Rev. John Murray
Rev. John Murray

John Murray (1741-1815), known as the “Father of American Universalism,” was a follower of the Methodist minister James Relly, who taught the salvation of all. He was born in England to strict Calvinist parents, but gravitated toward Relly’s message of hope for all souls. When he tried to promote this message to other Methodists, he was excommunicated for heresy, and decided to leave for America. In 1774 he settled in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and established the first Universalist church there out of a Rellyite study group. He participated in the first general Universalist Convention in 1785, and was a central figure in the founding of the Universalist Church of America in 1793. After that, he served as pastor of the Universalist Society of Boston. Murray also was a writer of hymns and compiler of hymnals.

Hosea Ballou (1771-1852), a New England itinerant preacher and writer, was an influential but controversial figure in the Universalist movement. He was considered an “Ultra-Universalist” because of his teaching that there is no such thing as hell or punishment after death. Most Universalists disagreed with him and believed in a “Restorationist” view, teaching that there is justice in the afterlife for sinners, who must go through a purgatorial process prior to the ultimate restoration of all. Ballou’s extreme rejection of the reality of divine justice does not, however, minimize the great role he played in spreading the overall message of Universalism — a God of love who will save all, rather than damning some. Ballou’s most important work was his book A Treatise on Atonement, in which he argued that scripture should be interpreted with the light of reason, and that the traditional view of Christ’s death on the cross as a legalistic appeasement of God’s anger was incorrect. Instead, Ballou taught that God is inherently loving and does not require the spilling of blood to forgive human sin. Hosea Ballou was a member of the committee that wrote the Winchester Profession, the first major statement of faith for Universalists.

John Wesley Hanson (1823-1901) was a prolific writer, theologian, and pastor who served Universalist churches in Massachusetts, Maine, and Iowa, and traveled to Scotland as a Universalist missionary. He wrote many religious books and also worked as a journalist, both for regular newspapers as well as specifically Universalist periodicals. Hanson is not as well known as some of the other important leaders of Universalism in the modern era, but his books did have a major influence and some of them are still available today, either reprinted or on the internet. One of Hanson’s notable achievements was that he edited the landmark book, The Congress of the World’s Religions, about the Parliament of the World’s Religions held in Chicago in 1893. But J. W. Hanson’s greatest works were his books about Universalism and Christianity, especially his magnum opus, Universalism, The Prevailing Doctrine of the Church During Its First 500 Years (published 1899). Some of his other books include: Bible Proofs of Universal Salvation; Bible Threatenings Explained; The Bible Hell, which explains Greek and Hebrew words about hell in the Bible that have been mistranslated; and A Cloud of Witnesses, about people throughout history who have taught universal salvation.

Hannah Whitall Smith
Hannah Whitall Smith

Hannah Whitall Smith (1832-1911) was a Universalist author and evangelist. She was also an active supporter of the women’s suffrage and temperance movements. She came from a Quaker background and was involved in the Holiness movement in the United States and the Higher Life Movement in Great Britain. Her book about Christian mysticism and practical Holiness theology, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, was a tremendous bestseller in her time and is still widely read today. Another book she wrote was her personal testimony of coming to believe in a loving God and the salvation of all: The Unselfishness of God and How I Discovered It. Many of today’s reprintings of the book omit the chapters promoting Universalism, because it is contrary to the doctrines of the Evangelical Christian publishers, but the original full text is available on the internet.

Rev. Olympia Brown
Rev. Olympia Brown

Olympia Brown (1835-1926) was the first woman to graduate from a regularly established theological school, and the first woman to be ordained a minister in full standing recognized by a denomination — the Universalist Church of America. She took an active role in the women’s suffrage movement. Brown served as a pastor in churches in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Wisconsin.

The 20th Century & Today

From the mid 1800’s onward, the Universalist Church of America gradually drifted away from Christian faith and became heavily influenced by the rising ideologies of scientific materialism and secular humanism. More and more energy was focused on social activism rather than spirituality and the proclamation of God and Christ. Along with this shifted emphasis came a decline in membership and financial resources of the church, which culminated in a merger in 1961 with the American Unitarian Association, creating the modern-day Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). The Unitarians were already less Christian and more secular than the Universalists, and after the merger the Unitarians were the dominant branch of the UUA. This caused Christian Universalism to disappear into obscurity during the past several decades, as it was absorbed by Unitarianism.

However, some remnants of the original Universalist Church still remained in the UUA after the merger, preserving some of the Christian Universalist beliefs of the early modern Universalist movement. One organization that currently exists for people who wish to hold on to the Universalist faith tradition within the UUA is the Universalist Convocation, a small organization dedicated to Universalist heritage and history, mainly Christian but in a liberal way that is compatible with UU attitudes toward religion. Another organization — which is more specifically Christian — is the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship, a group for Christians within the UUA, most of whom are Universalists or lean in a universalist direction.

A totally separate religious group with universalist leanings arose around the turn of the 20th century from the New Thought movement, and developed into an organization today called the Association of Unity Churches (or simply the “Unity Church”). The Unity Church is a liberal Christian denomination that teaches the existence of an all-benevolent, loving God, and reveres Christ as the example for human beings to follow to manifest their true spiritual self, which God created to be good and holy. The Unity Church does not specifically focus on the idea of universal salvation, but this is implied by the inclusive and optimistic spiritual principles they do teach. Unity is somewhat controversial because of the strong emphasis this denomination puts on prosperity theology, also known as “Word of Faith” or “name it and claim it.”

One currently existing Christian denomination that more explicitly teaches Universalism in its creed is the Liberal Catholic Church. This group arose in the early 1900’s as a mixture of ideas from the Theosophy movement and the Old Catholic Church, a German and Dutch sect of Catholics that broke away from Rome because they did not believe in the newly announced Roman Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility. The statement of faith of the Liberal Catholic Church International (the largest body of Liberal Catholics) expresses some major Universalist beliefs: “We believe that God is Love, and Power, and Truth, and Light; that perfect justice rules the world; that all His sons shall one day reach His feet, however far they stray. We hold the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of man…

The Primitive Baptist Universalists were a group of Baptists in the Central and Southern Appalachian Mountain region of the United States that sought to return to a more pure and original Baptist faith. Originating in the early 1900’s, they drew some of their inspiration from the earlier Anabaptists who embraced a universalist view of salvation. Many of them were Ultra-Universalists like Hosea Ballou — they rejected the idea of hell completely, except as it may exist here on earth, and were often called “No-Hellers.” This was never a large group, and it appears that most of its churches have died out. Some may perhaps have merged into the diverse Evangelical-Pentecostal Universalist movement that arose in the middle part of the 20th century, mostly in the rural South.

This is one of the more fascinating stories of modern Universalism: the appearance of a movement of independent Pentecostal or Charismatic Christians who believe in basic Universalist teachings — a movement that existed for several decades virtually unheard of by most Christians, and totally disconnected from any of the earlier Universalist history. Numerous house church organizers, newsletter writers, and traveling evangelists have been sharing the message of universal salvation independently of any denomination, mostly among Pentecostal/Charismatic and also some Evangelical types of Christians who have left the organized church. Many of them were originally associated with the “Latter Rain” revivial of the 1940’s and 1950’s, and gradually broadened their message to appeal to a wider variety of conservative Christians.

Perhaps because of their independent origins and lack of awareness of the great Universalist tradition that came before them, most of the Pentecostal Universalists don’t call their beliefs “Universalism.” They usually refer to a belief in “Reconciliation” (their term for apokatastasis or universal salvation) and “Sonship” (their term for theosis or transformation in the image of Christ). They generally believe that they were led to these beliefs directly by the Holy Spirit, which makes sense because many of the people in this community of faith have had little or no exposure to the works of early American Universalists or even the ancient church fathers who taught these beliefs.

The only significant organization of Pentecostal Universalists that is known to have existed prior to the new millennium is Home Missions Church, a loosely organized association of ministers, small churches and house churches that was founded in 1944. They mostly keep to themselves and do not advertise their group to outsiders, spreading only by word of mouth. Other smaller associations and informal networks also exist, which increasingly are adding new believers who come from an Evangelical Christian background. Today, with the rise of the internet and the easy networking opportunities it provides, it appears that many Pentecostal and Evangelical believers in universal salvation are beginning to see themselves as forming a core of what might be called the “conservative branch” of Christian Universalism.

Meanwhile, there has been a trend toward universalist beliefs in several other denominations and traditions that have not historically taught universal salvation. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is one of the best examples of this, because Martin Luther himself never embraced Universalism, but the ELCA today is one of the major Lutheran denominations and some of its ministers openly teach the salvation of all — although this is not an official teaching of the church. The Anglican and Episcopal Churches are moving steadily toward acceptance (or at least tolerance) of belief in universal salvation rather than the traditional doctrine of eternal hell. Liberal Congregational churches such as the United Church of Christ and liberal Reformed churches such as the Disciples of Christ are increasingly open to teachings of Universalism, without taking a position on the issue. There are Universalists to be found in most moderate-to-progressive denominations today. Even the Roman Catholic Church under Pope John Paul II became more open at least to the hope that hell could someday be emptied and all might return to harmony with God — and Pope Francis seems to be continuing this trend.

Many Christian philosophers, theologians, writers, and scholars are coming to believe in a Universalist interpretation of Christianity. A rapidly growing number of books are being published on the subject of Christian Universalism. Hundreds of Christian Universalist websites have exploded across the internet over the past few years, run by people with a wide variety of religious backgrounds and viewpoints. It appears that Universalism is beginning to develop into one of the most significant ecumenical movements among Christians of our time.

In this climate of increasing acceptance and longing for a theologically-based, spiritual form of Universalism — which the Unitarian Universalist Association has mostly ceased to provide — more people are turning to whatever religious groups they can find that even vaguely approximate or provide aspects of the former glory of the Universalist Gospel. Universalists are seeking fellowship and spiritual nourishment in liberal Quaker meetings, the New Age movement, and reading the writings of mystics, gurus, and Sufi poets who sought direct experience of the Divine Spirit within. Many people are desperately seeking a spiritual home that takes spirituality seriously without being fundamentalist. Such a home is difficult to find for people who believe in Jesus as their greatest teacher.

But Universalism is on the rise again, and we are entering a new era of vigorous proclamation of the ancient and eternal Gospel — the message of a loving God and the salvation and transformation of all human beings, which was brought by Jesus Christ; expounded by the Apostles, ancient church fathers and saints; transmitted by brave souls through the centuries, despite the rise of barbaric and repugnant perversions of Christianity; and revived in modern times by great preachers and writers of only several generations ago. This is a new day for Christian Universalism. It is a day when the light of the Gospel will fill the earth, and the “revealing of the sons of God” that St. Paul prophesied so many centuries ago may commence.

The Christian Universalist Association was founded in 2007 by people who passionately believe in this vision, who seek to revive and proclaim the essential message of God’s Good News for all people. We believe that the time is now for the transformation of the human race in the divine image. Let the idols of religion crumble, and let divine truth be known and shared. We are calling all people to join us in a bold new community of faith teaching an ancient, timeless message of the universal Fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of Man.

You can be a part of the exciting things God is doing in this generation! Help us make history. Help us become one more chapter in a 2000 year history. Join the CUA today!